CPAP Use Controls Blood Pressure

Many years ago, scientists and researchers discovered that patients with obstructive sleep apnea had a greater incidence of high blood pressure than people without any sleep disorders. In the early 2000, researchers found that beyond all reasonable doubt that obstructive sleep apnea is an independent risk factor for hypertension. According to “the HeartBEAT study”, it was found that using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a therapy for reducing blood pressure in patients with sleep apnea. This finding is important because the standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea will also likely help high blood pressure therefore requiring less treatment varieties.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston tested how the CPAP lowers blood pressure. The lead author of the study Dr. Daniel Gottlieb says, “The effect of CPAP on blood pressure in this study is important for both physicians and their patients. Previous studies have demonstrated that a decrease in blood pressure of this magnitude is associated with up to a 20% reduction in mortality from stroke and a 15% reduction in cardiovascular mortality.” It is important to address both conditions and their impact on patient health but the value of finding one potential treatment for both can transform the way doctors think about OSA. High blood pressure is regularly treated with a medication but you might be able to avoid another prescription medication by using your CPAP machine for both OSA and hypertension.

Obstructive sleep apnea is extremely dangerous because patients experience the muscles in their throat closing and blocking the airway during sleep. Many people do not realize they have OSA but notice symptoms of daytime fatigue or a feeling of unrest. It is often noticed by partners and loved ones who notice snoring with periods where breathing stops and the person gasps for breath. It has been found that the gaps in breathing causes an increase in blood pressure. This happens because, “the oxygen level in the body falls and the brain sends signals to the blood vessels to “tighten up” so that oxygen flow to the heart and brain is increased.

Although sleep apnea and high blood pressure cannot be “cured” there is a prescribed treatment called the CPAP machine. As its name indicates, the machine pups air into the patient’s airway so they no longer lose oxygen or experience airway closing. The researchers found “the effect of CPAP on lowering blood pressure was greatest at night…and the reduction was greater in diastolic than systolic blood pressure.”